Enrique Mazzola named music director of Lyric Opera

Thu Sep 12, 2019 at 1:45 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Enrique Mazzola was named music director of Lyric Opera of Chicago Thursday, effective with the 2021-22 season. Photo: Eric Garault

Lyric Opera of Chicago has a new music director.

The company announced Thursday that Enrique Mazzola has been named music director designate of Lyric Opera. The conductor will take the reins officially with the 2021-2022 season.

The long-rumored retirement of music director Sir Andrew Davis was made official at the same time, with the English conductor poised to close his 20-year tenure at Lyric Opera at the end of the 2020-21 season. 

Mazzola’s initial contract is for five years through the 2024-2025 season. He will lead two productions in his first season and a minimum of three in each consecutive season.

Mazzola is an admirable choice. The dynamic Italian conductor was the clear standout from the numerous—and often uninspired—Lyric pit debuts of recent seasons. Mazzola made a sensational company debut with Lucia di Lammermoor in 2016, followed up by an equally impressive I Puritani last year, taking the podium opening night just days after emergency gall bladder surgery.

Next month Mazzola conducts Verdi’s Luisa Miller, which will be interesting for the opportunity to see what he can accomplish in non-bel canto repertoire. He is currently principal guest conductor at Deutsche Oper Berlin and, until recently, artistic and music director of the Orchestre National d’Île-de-France (ONDIF) in Paris.

“I am so looking forward to working closely with Anthony [Freud] in my new role as music director at Lyric starting in 2021, and to working with both Anthony and Sir Andrew as music director designate during the transition period,” said Mazzola in a statement released by the company. “Anthony has made me feel very much like part of the Lyric Opera family from the beginning, and our working relationship is always an excellent collaboration.” 

The statement goes on to say that Mazzola says he felt amore a prima vista (love at first sight) for Chicago and has enjoyed exploring the city’s neighborhoods, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Mazzola plans to make Chicago his principal residence.

Andrew Davis said in an official statement that he had intended to retire after the 2020 Ring cycles but that general director, president and CEO Freud persuaded him to stay on through the 2020-2021 season. 

“It will be hard to leave, but the timing is right for me and I am confident that Enrique will be a splendid music director for Lyric. I am greatly looking forward to working closely with him over the next two years. He’s a fine musician and someone who will continue the tradition of the Lyric Opera family. It’s fantastic to have two years together for our transition.” 

“I am thrilled that Enrique Mazzola has accepted Lyric’s invitation to become our next music director,” said Anthony Freud. “He has accrued a wealth of international experience in his career to date, and he is tremendously well liked and respected by the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus. I am confident that our audiences and the people of Chicago will be captivated by his artistry, his charm and personality, as has certainly been the case during his initial engagements here in the past few years.”

The announcement was made from the stage of Lyric Opera to an audience of invited press, patrons and donors.

Lyric Opera’s 2019-20 season opens September 28 with Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

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